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published on 10/16/2002


By staff writer

Friends of MACC and Friends of Signal Mountain High School were the gracious hosts for the Town of Signal Mountain’s first “Meet the Candidate Night” held at the Mountain Arts Community Center. The moderator for the evening was Bob Anderson, editor of the Signal Mountain Mirror and a resident of Signal Mountain. Timekeeper was Meteorologist Thom Benson from WRCB Channel 3.

After introducing the five candidates present running for Town Council, Bob announced the “rules” of the evening: each candidate would be given five minutes to speak to the audience with Mr. Benson notifying the candidate when one minute remained. Following the presentation, the audience would be given an opportunity to ask questions to individual candidates or collectively.

The following is a portion of what each candidate expressed during his five minutes:

The first candidate to speak was Robert White. Robert has experience running a business and would like to make Signal Mountain a “model community.” He shares the same vision with candidate Jason Farmer, and would work enthusiastically to make this happen. He feels the police and fire departments are important and need job security. Also important is a Signal Mountain High School, which he feels is a Hamilton County issue not a Town issue; the Middle School suffers because there is no high school. With a high school on the mountain, a dynamic education system would be in place. Another important issue for Robert are the senior citizens on the mountain which need to be hooked into and can be a big resource for the Town. He feels the Town can do a better job managing the recreation facilities as well as making use and supporting both MACC and the Signal Mountain Playhouse. Finally, he praised Jason Farmer and encouraged everyone to vote for Jason.

The second candidate to speak was Bill Leonard. Bill has experience in various sized organizations and offers that experience to the community. He said serving on the Council is about citizenship not politics and it’s time for him to “pay back” to the Town what he has gotten as a resident. He would like to bring together individuals in the community to make it a place where grown children, like his, want to stay or move back and raise their families. Bill returned to Scouting as an adult leader to give back, not unlike his reasons for wanting to serve on the Council.

Joe Dumas feels that communication is very important. He has been going door to door to try and meet everyone and listen to the issues the people feel are important. He feels Signal Mountain is the “best place to live,” and he is volunteering to help this happen. Concerned about the increase in taxes and the lousy spending, Joe would like to cut taxes and spend more wisely. Safety is an issue, especially sidewalks, the lack of or disrepair of others. He suggests planning and building the sidewalks and bike paths in stages by applying for grants and other resources. Joe feels good communication between the Council and residents is important and a high priority. He feels that because he is close to the median age in the Town, he would work hard and be willing to listen to the people.

The fourth candidate to speak was Jason Farmer. Jason grew up on Signal Mountain and now lives and works here. He feels that he has the same work ethic and vision of Signal Mountain as candidate Robert White. The Signal Mountain High School is a top priority and although a Hamilton County issue, the Town should consider alternative solutions to funding, “leave no stone unturned.” Jason would like to create an atmosphere where people can address concerns and issues before they become serious problems. He would like to see the Town increase its information technology, for example by providing online user fees for recreation, MACC, Library as well as pay bills. Jason “grew up her and plans to stay here – he remembers the traditions.”

The last to speak was Mayor Jim Althaus. The Mayor said that he had governed the Town fairly, honestly, and effectively. He had a strong background in top management and knows how to manage money. He took issue to statements by other candidates that he and the previous Councils have mismanaged the Town. The Mayor spent the majority of his five minutes proving the Town is well organized and has a plan, all of which he had a part in creating. He brought with him the manuals to prove it: the Land Use Plan, the Urban Growth Plan, the Master Inter-local Boundary Maps, the Open Space Land from PARTAS, and most recently the future plan of Shakleford Ridge Park.

The order in which the candidates spoke was a random drawing. Each candidate thanked everyone for attending and thanked them for their support in the upcoming election. The remaining hour was a question and answer time from members of the audience. However, the majority of questions were really statements or concerns that residents wanted to express. Key points raised were the necessity of sidewalks, the traffic up and down the mountain, the Town’s relationship with Walden, two candidates running together, the high school being a Town Council issue, the quality of life on the mountain, growth not a good thing, the Duke energy pipeline, and long time resident, Jean Dolan’s comment that the majority of issues discussed tonight or questioned have been discussed in length at monthly Town Council meetings and invited the many people in the audience to attend each month.
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